Large Meteor Lights Up Midwest Night Sky

LANCASTER, Wis., April 15 (UPI) — A large meteor streaked over the U.S. Midwest Wednesday, briefly lighting up the night sky and unleashing a sonic boom heard for hundreds of miles.

No injuries or damage were reported, but the ground, trees, homes and various objects, including wind chimes, shook from the boom’s enormous amounts of sound energy, the National Weather Service said.

The meteoroid, estimated at 6 feet in diameter and weighing at least 1,000 pounds, entered Earth’s atmosphere around 10:10 p.m. Central Daylight Time and was visible in Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and Missouri as a giant fireball flying eastward at an altitude of 6,000 to 12,000 feet, the National Weather Service reported.

It may have landed intact in southwest Wisconsin, near Lancaster, or it may have broken into smaller pieces or burned up, the weather service said.

No one reported seeing a meteorite or crater by late Thursday.

A Howard County, Iowa, sheriff’s deputy captured the fireball on video and posted it on the YouTube video-sharing Web site.

“If something is bright enough to light up the sky like daytime and cause sonic booms throughout the entire area, it’s big. It was major,” astronomer Mark Hammergren of the Adler Planetarium in Chicago told National Geographic.

“If it was daytime, people would have undoubtedly seen smoke trails,” he said.

While meteoroids entering Earth’s atmosphere are common, few pack the punch of Wednesday’s fireball, University of Wisconsin Space Place Director James Lattis told the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison.

And while some have suggested the fireball was part of a meteor shower, that is probably not true, Hammergren told National Geographic.

The meteor was most likely a defector from the solar system’s asteroid belt, a ring of space rocks and “minor planets” between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, he said.

The annual Lyrid meteor shower, observed annually for the past 2,600 years, is set to begin Friday and peak next Thursday.

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Categorized | Other, Solar
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